Family Mash-Up: Season premieres

Catching up on ‘This is Us,’ ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Young Sheldon’

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‘This is Us’

“This Is Us,” the drama set around the past and present of the Pearson family, returns with its almost supernatural power to make us cry.

The second season premiere of “This is Us” is basically a chance to check in with our core group of characters. We spend the majority of our time in the present, with the Big Three celebrating their birthdays, albeit separately (aka without a single Big Three conference call). While Kate (Chrissy Metz) is off pursuing her ambitions to become a singer, Kevin (Justin Hartley) is transitioning into his new life as a hot-shot actor in Los Angeles. When Kevin’s girlfriend Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) bails on him because she has to take care of her mother, he spends his birthday gatecrashing Kate and Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) night instead, to both humorous and heartfelt results. Elsewhere, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are struggling with Randall’s decision to adopt a third child. Beth is angry that Randall did not include her in his plans and is worried whether the recent death of his father is the cause behind Randall’s newfound purpose.

Back in the past, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) decide to take a timeout after their huge fight about Rebecca’s career and Jack’s growing alcoholism. By the episode’s end, though, Rebecca decides that she doesn’t want to be apart from Jack. (Who does? No one — apart from her second husband, that is). It is at this point that we find out how Jack dies — we flash forward a few months and see Rebecca tearfully drive over to the now-burnt Pearson house. Apparently, Jack died in a fire, y’all! Mystery solved! Hey, can we please get some more Kleenex over here?

‘Modern Family’

TV’s favorite family is back in its ninth (yes, ninth) season. This time, they go on vacation! Jay (Ed O’Neill), the patriarch of the family, likes solar eclipses (who would have thought?) and decides to take the family out onto the water so that all of them can check one out. 

Predictably enough, none of the characters are actually interested in doing that. Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) wants to take Gloria (Sofia Vergara) boating. Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen) need to feel adventurous and youthful again after realizing that, er, they are not adventurous or youthful. Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), meanwhile, has to relive an embarrassing situation from his past, and Jay is forced to take stock of the impact he has made on the lives of his children after a colleague passes away. 

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The kids are having their own sets of issues. Alex (Ariel Winter) is commitment-phobic, and Manny (Rico Rodriguez) is worried about going off to college (weren’t we all?). Luke (Nolan Gould) and Haley (Sarah Hyland) are just kind of there, chillin’ — essentially, both of them have morphed into a single, not-so-smart package.

All’s well that ends well, though. The family finally comes together and sings along while Phil plays Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” After eight seasons, “Modern Family” still manages to somehow make moments like these endearing and warm.

Robert Voets/CBS/Courtesy

‘Young Sheldon’

“Young Sheldon” — a spinoff of CBS’s long-running popular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” — begins its series premiere with a 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) getting ready to start high school. The episode checks off most of Sheldon’s long-running idiosyncratic characteristics — his incomparable intelligence, his fascination with model trains, his obsessive hygiene habits and his inability to comprehend human emotion.

In the premiere, we get to see how Sheldon’s quirks directly impact and define his family. Mary (Zoe Perry), in particular, knows about the challenges that lie ahead for Sheldon and strives to make sure that, come what may, her son gets the education he deserves. George Jr. (Montana Jordan), on the other hand, is worried that he now has to share his high school with his “unusual” younger brother. His father, George Sr. (Lance Barber), who is the football coach at his children’s high school, is also concerned whether Sheldon will be able to fit into his new environment.

“Young Sheldon” could have easily used these individual storylines for light chuckles. However, the show distinguishes itself from its parent series by sacrificing humor when it needs drama instead. A scene at the end that involves Sheldon removing his protective oven mitt so that he can hold hands with his father at dinner is a perfect example of the more serious and poignant tone of “Young Sheldon.”

We may have just found something to fill “The Wonder Years”-shaped hole in our lives.

Contact Arjun Sarup at [email protected].